Campaign launches urging government to bail out students and accommodation providers

A digital housing platform launched a campaign on Thursday, calling on the government to offer financial support for students struggling because of the UK’s national lockdown.

Housemates started #SaveOurStudents to raise awareness of the challenges faced by students forced to pay for accommodation they cannot return to, and accommodation providers unable to give out refunds.

While the Scottish and Welsh governments have announced some monetary aids for students, many see it as not enough and are asking for more help.

Lydia Jones, Founder and CEO at Housemates said: “Whilst we support lockdowns to ensure the physical safety of those across the UK, students are suffering from the stress of having to pay for unused student accommodation and their massively disrupted education more broadly.

Students have been blamed and dismissed a lot during the pandemic by Government and higher education institutions, often being described as irresponsible, immature or childish, and with some institutions suggesting they should treat lockdown as a ‘retreat’.”

Joel Bick, 21, of Cardiff Metropolitan University: “Students have been treated terribly during the lockdown, and I fully stand by the Housemates #SaveOurStudents campaign’s call for the government to provide financial support to students and accommodation providers.”

According to the National Code, most of the few refunds that are given will go to first year students, with students still in accommodation being forced to rely on privately-owned Purpose Built Student Accommodation or Houses in Multiple Occupation.

Kaplan is one such PBSA which is offering rent rebates for students who have been prevented from returning to the residences due to lockdown and who meet certain criteria can apply for a rent rebate of £750 that will be applied to the final instalment.

However, this is still not enough for som, and students from over 40 universities across the country are staging strikes.

In November, students at the University of Manchester protested after being told to pay £3,000 for accommodation they could not enter, by barricading themselves in the University building, and won a 30% rent reduction.

Elin Pritchard, 18, of Cardiff Metropolitan University said: “My experience with student accommodation this academic year has been horrible.

We’ve been told to stay away for two months and despite this we are only getting back two weeks’ worth of rent money. How is that fair?”

Danielle Skilton, 18, from UWE Bristol, said: “I am in a Unite Students run accommodation, and they are offering students two weeks of a rent refund, but have phrased this as 50% off of four weeks rent.

We won’t get any actual money back too – only credit for our last instalment and that discount won’t apply until around April anyway.

It’s simply not enough and I feel like we are being treated like cash cows rather than humans.”

In March, Housemates will also be launching Flexi-book, a feature that will allow students to book accommodation for a period of their choice, without having to call, email or live chat with an agent.

The #SaveOurStudents campaign has now been backed by student accommodation partners including Allied Students and Herbal Hill Studios with more partners coming on board.

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